Feb 17, 2020
The famed parts of Burgundy make wine that most of us can only read about in books and articles. But Côte Chalonnaise, just south of those famed parts, is a treasure trove of great whites and reds. Although it has been praised throughout history, in recent times it has been overlooked by Burgundy lovers, despite the fact that in many years it makes wine that isn't so different from its neighbors to the north.
As a quick overview, the region takes its name from the commune of Chalon-sur-Saône, near the Saône River. It is sandwiched between the Côte de Beane and north of the hills of the Maconnais, and here Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and the white Aligoté grape grow on soils strikingly similar to Côte de Beaune, which is a mere 3 miles away.
The Côte Chalonnaise is between the Dheune and Grosne Valleys. With a continental climate, it rolls over gentle hills with many areas that possess the very same limestone prized (and 3-5 times more for) in the Côte de Beaune.
With max’ed out demand for the wines of the Côte d’Or (where the best Pinot is from) and the wines of the Côte de Beaune (the most famed Chardonnay wines, also with excellent Pinot), prices for wines from these areas of Burgundy are simply outrageous. Although the wines of the Côte Chalonnaise are not always as elegant as those from the regions to its north, they are still outstanding wines and better yet, they are wines that we can afford that allow us to taste the land of Burgundy without paying 6 months mortgage for a single bottle.
In the rest of the show, we discuss specific appellations. Here are the notes:
Regional: Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise
Cremant de Bourgogne: Although not exclusively made in Chalonnaise, this is the area in which the sparkling wine was first made.
Bouzeron: The only appellation to make wine from the Aligoté grape, which is acidic, aromatic, and silky when made well.
Rully: The whites of Chardonnay are the best in Côte Chalonnaise and are very often better than comparable wines from the Côte de Beaune for a way better price. Rully is adjacent to Bouzeron and makes excellent Pinot Noir too. The whites of Chardonnay are usually fermented or matured in oak. The best Crémant is made here as well
Mercurey: The Côte Chalonnaise was once known as the Région de Mercurey, because the area is so large and important. Divided into two parts, there are lots of sub valleys on either side which make research necessary to get good wines. 25% of vineyards are classified as Premier Cru, but these are more legitimate than other communes, because Mercurey does regular reviews, to make more stringent conditions than the appellation's other wines (the maximum yields are closer to those of the Cote d’Or). 90% of the wine is flavorful, earthy, spicy Pinot Noir with chewy, rich tannins, great acidity, and mineral notes.
Givry: Similar to Mercurey, Givry’s production is 90% Pinot Noir. Also like Mercurey, the excellent limestone based soils allow the best Givry producers make wines similar in style to Côte d’Or for a fraction of the price. This is a small area but it has 38 Premier Crus and that means the significance of those climats isn’t always earned – do your research before you buy!
Photo: BIVB - Vins de Bourgogne
Montagny: With only whites made from Chardonnay, limestone soils are vital to adding minerality in the wines. The wines are generally barrel fermented for depth and complexity. They are rich and full.
The challenges with Montagny: 2/3 of the production is from the local co-op in Buxy . Although they make quality wine, they have a strangle-hold on producers and there are fewer independent domaines here. The other issue: during World War II the appellation was deemed to be ALL Premier Cru and that isn’t really right. Although some producers volunteered to limit the top sites to the best portion of their climat, many didn’t so the proportion of overpriced, improperly classified Premier Cru wine in Montagny is high.
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